Monday, August 3, 2009

Basic Skills Competition: Focus on the Mental Game

I hear parents grumble all the time at basic skills figure skating competitions. The judges were crummy, the figure skaters weren’t evenly matched, or my kid deserved to win. Heck, I’ve done it myself.

I’ve come to a realization, though. Basic Skills competitions are about skating, sure, but the lessons are larger than that.

  • How to prepare for a competition. Basic Skills competitions help skaters understand what to expect at a competition, what to bring, and how to act.

  • How to deal with losing. Not everyone will place first all the time. Judges are different, days are different, and some skaters are just better. This is all good. How will your skater deal with disappointment? What words can you say when you think she should have received first, but received fourth instead?

  • How to deal with winning. Sometimes your skater will place first. I’ve seen first-place skaters jump up and down and shout “In your face!” Not classy. Learning how to win gracefully is just as important as learning how to lose.

  • How to deal with unfairness. Is your skater in a group of eight when groups are supposed to be limited to six competitors? Is your skater skating against a kid twice her age? Is there a skater in the group who is obviously “skating down” several levels? Well, parents, these things happen, especially at Basic Skills competitions.

    Instead of whining about how it could be more fair, I’ve decided to smile and teach Ice Girl how to deal with inequities. Let’s face it: in any sport you’ll find bad calls, teams that needlessly run up the score, and crummy refs. Skating isn’t any different.

  • Competitions are about character. Sure, your skater needs to have figure skating skills, but the jumps and spins are what practice and lessons are all about. Your skater’s not going to the competition to perfect her Salchow, but to perform it. That’s a mental game. Competitions favor kids with a strong mental game, a good attitude, and a positive outlook.


Anonymous said...

Great post!

Re: kid skating against someone twice her age >> I concur that there are difficulties when kids are not matched well with regard to age. I was always the older skater, and at different points in my skating career I found it more/less difficult to skate against a younger skater. When my body was still changing (around 14 maybe), it was very hard to skate against younger skaters who seemed so much more flexible, less top heavy, and all around cuter. Once I hit my mid-teens, moved up a few levels, and adjusted, I felt that it was easier to compete against the girls half my age than it was in my early teens.

I agree that it's an important lesson for kids to learn when competing against someone of a different age. You learn that there are strong points to every age group. That aspect of skating helped me learn important lessons when I was younger which I feel have carried me far in my professional life today.

katiedear said...

You might feel better about competition results if you have real U.S.F.S. judges at your competitions instead of coaches.

Ice Mom said...

Excellent point, Katiedear. Want good judging? Go to a big competition with real judging. It's my understanding that the requirements to judge at Basic Skills are two: USFSA member and 16 or older.

However, unqualified or not, it's still a good lesson to learn: judging isn't always fair. It's good for kids to learn how to deal with that. It occurs in all kinds of sports: little league, flag football, youth soccer, etc.

I also believe that organizers try to find qualified folks and that these amateur judges try hard to be fair. Fairness doesn't always happen, though.

iSkater said...

Thanks so much for your help! I am a competitive figure skater and you have helped me (and my mom, who was glad to find another skating mom who felt her pain) so much! Keep writing! :)

Titus said...

I agree. Good judges are in big competitions.

Paul @ Russian Architecture said...

Hi Ice Mom. Please continue on writing. I find your blogs very interesting.